Many of you are no doubt are familiar with Vaughn Roycroft. I became aware of him at Writer Unboxed, and it was through his Facebook posts and our common passion for our environment (and our love of our dogs!) that I felt like I got to know him a bit more. But it was at his blog, Seeking the Inner Ancient, where I really became a fan of his thoughtful and insightful writing style.
I approached Vaughn in the midst of his revision (unknown to me), and asked if he'd be willing to write a guest post and he graciously agreed. When, as he describes below, he was able to come up for air and send me his article, he said, "I hope you like the essay. If not, just say the word, and we can try again." He needn't have bothered to offer that caveat. I knew whatever he wrote would resonate with me. His writing always does.
Coming Up For Air
I was excited when Julie was kind enough to invite me to write an essay for her lovely blog. But I was also in the depths of a revision of book one of my epic fantasy trilogy. When I say depths, what I mean is dug into the burrow of my story, barely cognizant of the outside world. Happily, I still get email down in the story burrow, and although I don’t always read them all, I received Julie’s invitation. I told her I would love to be her guest, but it would have to wait until I emerged.
So I’ve rudely kept her waiting. I recently popped my head up, squinting and blinking, to read her wonderful post, Taking Off the Writer Hat. Which actually jarred me into thinking about something besides my story revisions. It was a slow process, but I finally got some fresh air and exercise, and the old noggin started to clear. In her piece, Julie talks about how differently her creative process works when she’s in writer mode and out of it. At first I agreed, thinking I operate on two writerly levels as well. But as the reality of my post-burrow circumstances came clearer, I realized I am a three-phase writer.
In The Story Burrow: My first writerly phase is the most fun for me. After all, burrowing into story is what brought me to this crazy-making gig. I was in the story burrow phase throughout most of the years it took me to compose the first draft of my trilogy.
And I am delighted to find that I can dig down again and again. I’ve done it for another, fourth manuscript, and for several rewrites of the trilogy manuscripts. It usually takes me a while, but once I’ve dug back into my story’s world, I get comfy. Story elements and enhancements come to me while I’m falling asleep, waking up, eating my cereal, brushing my teeth—you get the idea. I write lots of little notes, but I rarely need them. Story nuances pondered during the wakeful hour of 3-4 am come right back to me once the doc is open at 10 am.
The Writers’ Warren: When I recently emerged from the story burrow, the phase of my writerly self that called me back first was the one those of you who see and interact with me online know. I am many things in the interconnected warren that is the online writing community. I am a writing group moderator, a blogger and blog commenter, a writing newsletter columnist, a beta-reader and reviewer, and all-around writerly socializer.
The very first time I emerged from the story burrow, I entered the writers’ warren with some trepidation. But I’ve found it mostly enjoyable building connections with other writers. This phase is also a learning and sharing one. It informs my work. I am a better writer when I am in the story burrow because of my interaction with all of you. Here I am a student and, occasionally, a teacher (which makes me a better student). Here I have found colleagues and mentors and, best of all, friends. In this phase I also find support and encouragement, which is much needed when I inevitably face the third phase.
VR Enterprises: Although there are aspects of the second phase that will support my efforts in this third phase, this is where my writing life gets down to business. This is where I am read and judged by others. This is the part where I seek the best possible means of putting myself out there to the wider world. This is where I will seek an agent and choose the best means to publish my work. And hopefully, to sell what will eventually become my books. But I am conscious of the fact that, to some extent, I am already selling myself.
Although I’ve only taken a few tentative steps into this phase of my writerly life, I know how important phase three will be to my journey. My wife (a very astute businesswoman in her own right) always warns me to be mindful, even in the comfort of the writers’ warren, that the name Vaughn Roycroft is going to be a brand. The notion is motivating and daunting, exciting and terrifying, all at once.
Surface Exposure: In this particular rewrite, I had very specific goals. I came to have them through interactions in phase two. I was read and critiqued. I consulted with mentors, and I studied, and I pondered. Then I went back into the burrow, where I added several story elements, including a new thread that needed to be woven through the entire story. As I rewrote it, I was happy with the changes. Confidence is not a great issue for me when I’m in the story burrow.
But now I’m out of the burrow. I’ve spent some time in the warren, and I’m starting to feel a bit more “caught up” with my community. The surface looms. My exposure to the third phase beckons. I will soon be exposing my efforts to be judged once again. Have I done enough? Too much? Did I actually meet my goals?
Groundhog Day: Whatever comes of it, failure or success, rejection or sale, I can take comfort in knowing I can go back to ground. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. I still have all of you in the writers’ warren to inform, encourage, and support me. And, if need be, I can dig into another story burrow. And then of course, it all starts over again.
How about you? Are there other phases to your writing life?
Bio for Vaughn Roycroft
In the sixth grade, Vaughn’s teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and storytelling. After college, life intervened, and rather than writing fantasy fiction, Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business. After many milestone achievements, and with the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ he and his wife left their hectic lives in the business world, moved to their getaway cottage near their favorite shore, and Vaughn finally returned to writing. In addition to polishing his epic fantasy trilogy, Vaughn is a moderator for the Writer Unboxed FacebookCommunity as well as a regular contributor to the WU newsletter, Writer Inboxed.
Get a glimpse into Vaughn’s writerly world at vaughnroycroftblog.com.